Actress learns Hebrew for “Handle with Care” at JET; opens December 1
When JET Executive Director, Christopher Bremer decided to produce Jason Odell Williams hit play, Handle With Care he knew the romantic comedy came with one very unusual casting challenge: the young woman at the center of the play doesn’t speak any English.
Handle With Care centers around the plight of a woman from Israel named Ayelet (pronounced “I-yell-it”) who finds herself stuck in a motel in Virginia on December 24 as she tries to resolve a problem of both practical and emotional magnitude. “Not only would the actress cast in the lead part of Ayelet have to learn most of her dialogue in Hebrew,” Bremer said, “but she would have to deliver her lines with rapid-fire precision as if she were a native speaker under stress as well.”
For this project, Bremer brought in Michigan theatre veteran, Robert Grossman as director for both his directing experience and his knowledge of the language. After casting Henrietta Hermelin Weinberg, Michael Lopetrone, and Dan Johnson, Grossman still needed to find his leading lady.
Enter New York actress and Hilberry alumnus, Annie Keris, who auditioned via YouTube and captured the role immediately, despite the fact that she spoke no Hebrew at all and would have to learn all of her lines via a CD provided by the playwright. Once she was cast, Annie went to work even though the first rehearsal was months away. “I have been practicing for at least two months now,” Ms. Keris said, “It’s tough but enormously satisfying.”
Ms. Keris is originally from Indiana, and moved to Detroit to attend graduate school at Wayne State’s Hilberry Theatre before heading off to New York City where she is a member of the Titan Theatre Company. Her return to Detroit to portray Ayelet has been a wonderful experience, especially because she has been staying with Henrietta Hermelin Weinberg who plays her grandmother. Ms. Weinberg couldn’t be more delighted. “We have had a chance to develop the relationship between these two women,” Ms. Weinberg said, “The opportunity to really get to know someone you are working with is amazing–but expecially in this play because it is such a magical story.”
Christopher Bremer agrees. He thinks Handle With Care has something for everybody. “This play is a special holiday treat,” he says, “No matter what holiday you celebrate.”
Handle With Care runs from December 1—24 at the Aaron DeRoy Theatre on the ground level of the West Bloomfield JCC, 6600 W. Maple Road, West Bloomfield. Tickets are $44, with student, senior, and group rates available. Call 248-788-2900 or visit www.jettheatre.org for tickets and more information.
Handle With Care has a running time of approximately 90 minutes without an intermission, and is appropriate for ages 12 and up.